27 August 2010

The Doctrines of Grace: An Introduction

"It's the end of the world as we know it!" Maybe. Or Jesus could tarry for another 10 or 20 years. Personally I don't think He will, but it's a possibility.

"We have to get as many people saved as possible!"Umm...kind of, but we desperately need to change this terminology. The concept of evangelism and "saving souls" is important regardless of where we are in the prophetic timeline. Whether Christ is returning tonight, next week, or when your grandchildren have grandchildren, we need to be preaching Christ and Him crucified. But we cannot get anybody saved, and herein lies the problem with modern-day evangelism. Instead of striving to "get people saved" let's focus on what we are called to do: let's preach the Gospel. If we do our part, we can leave the saving up to God and the Holy Spirit. But today's squishy, warm-fuzzy gospel of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" isn't going to suffice. Without correct doctrine, we cannot have a correct gospel. And without a correct gospel, nobody is going to truly get saved.

With that, I am going to embark on a series explaining the Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as the "Five Points of Calvinism," and why I believe them to be true and biblical. I realize that right now I have angered some of my readers while others are praying for what they perceive to be my poor, confused soul. I would ask that you "hear" me out over the next few weeks and if you still disagree with me, well, there's pretty much nothing I can do about it.

For all intents and purposes, one could refer to me as a Calvinist. However, that identification does not mean that I believe and agree with everything that John Calvin taught and believed. Staunch, "hyper-Calvinists" would probably consider me to be more of a 4 1/2 point Calvinist, but I'm okay with that. In the end, what I truly identify myself as is a Christian, because when I stand before the Bema Seat, it won't be John Calvin staring back at me!

So, what are these "five points" which are so hotly debated...and hated (by some)? They can be remembered quite easily by the acronym T.U.L.I.P.
T - TOTAL DEPRAVITY
U - UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
L - LIMITED ATONEMENT
I - IRRESISTIBLE GRACE 
P - PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS 
In this series, I will take each of the five points, explain the basic tenets of each and explain why it is a biblical doctrine.

What is the point of this exercise? I'm doing this partly to (hopefully) help to clear up some of the confusion that exists in regard to Calvinism. Granted, men far more educated and far more eloquent than myself have already addressed this topic. Yet I know that many of my readers have not read those arguments and so perhaps this will be those individuals' first introduction to this teaching.

My greater hope, however, is that an explanation of the Doctrines of Grace will aid us as we seek to serve the Lord by obediently preaching His Gospel. How can T.U.L.I.P. help with this? Simple. Because Calvinism is not "Calvinism," it is the gospel.
"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
“Salvation is of the Lord.” [Jonah 2:9.] That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.” 
- Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
Phil Johnson well explains Spurgeon's statement here when he says, "He [Spurgeon] was pointing out that the principle at the heart of all gospel truth is the same principle that drives Calvinism: 'Salvation is of the Lord.' Salvation is God's work; it's not something we do for ourselves. That's the truth he was defending (online source)."

I am not suggesting that we launch into a discussion of election with the unsaved sinner. I am suggesting that we properly understand this concept that "salvation is of the Lord" if we are to effectually share the Gospel. If we do not understand the Gospel, how can we properly share it? It is a misunderstanding of the Gospel of Christ that has led to countless altar calls, hand raisings, and card signings as "proof" of someone's salvation, yet how many of those "saved souls" never really came to know Christ because the true Christ was not preached to them? How many of those who wept and shuddered, moved by the emotionally charged setting and tear-filled piano chords, but never really told of their own hopeless depravity, one night "made a decision" for Christ and a week later were still lost in their wretched, sinful, fallenness with not a clue as to the state of their own nature? How many of these still live lost lives without Jesus, yet blindly and blissfully believe that they will spend eternity with Him because they "prayed a prayer?" Dear friends, if we do not understand the saving work of God then we cannot do justice in presenting our Savior to another!

Be patient with me throughout this series and extend grace. The plate of my life, though piled no higher than anyone else's, still lacks room for this endeavor. Nevertheless, the idea drifted into my mind as it has in months past and I feel it is time to finally bring it to fruition. So stay tuned...
as it is written:
"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:10-18

Author's note: I am not claiming that those who disagree with the doctrines of grace are heretics or are eternally damned anymore than I would expect that they would say the same about me for holding to these truths. These teachings raise discomfort and great tension in people from both sides of the argument. In a discussion such as this, it is important to remember and to acknowledge that there are divine paradoxes which we will not and cannot understand this side of Heaven. These will be discussed in the appropriate posts.

5 comments:

  1. I would just suggest you get and read Dave Hunt's book, "What Love Is This?" and perhaps also Norman Geisler's book, "Chosen But Free."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I do believe in and acknowledge the divine paradox of God's sovereign election and man's "free will." I'll address that in the appropriate post. It's for this reason that I do not particularly care for the label of "Calvinist." It is important, though, that we don't eliminate salvation as being of God in favor of man's solitary decision. Much of the disagreements on this subject arise because neither "camp" is willing to acknowledge that these issues are divine paradoxes that we cannot understand this side of Heaven. Hyper-Calvinists have wandered into just as dangerous territory as have those who lean more Arminian.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am not Arminian either. However, the Bible says over and over again that it is up to the individual to choose Jesus. It never says God forces us to choose Jesus. We have the free will to do so, and that is Scriptural. That to me is a major problem with Calvinism - God has puppets and not people with the free will to choose God or not; God forces certain people to choose him and the rest he sends to hell.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I do have problems with the "limited Atonment" because I believe God chose on the basis of what He knew we would do. Some one told my son that God has either doomed his child to hell or chose him for heaven. if that be true the why have missionaries, why witness and what ever happen to John 3:16..It does not say that "For God so loved the elect..." I believe it says the "world" and that "whosoever". By the way the Covenant guys believe Nero was the antic hrist...Better throw out Isaiah, Revelation, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As I said, I don't hold to everything Calvin taught! We certainly differ on eschatology. I realize the "limited atonement" part is where people get upset. I'll get to that, I promise!

    ReplyDelete

Please keep it pithy (in other words, if your comment is long enough to be its own blog post, don't bother), pertinent (please don't go off-topic), and respectful (to the author, to the other readers, and to the subject of the post). If you can't do that, your comment will not be posted.

If you haven't already, please read the Comment Policy in its entirety.